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Breville Bambino Plus vs Barista Express

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Last updated: December 19, 2023

Quick Answer: I’d always recommend getting the Breville Bambino Plus instead of the Breville Barista Express. If you want an espresso machine with a built-in grinder then I’d recommend the Breville Barista Pro

This is my comparison of the Breville Bambino Plus vs Barista Express.

The Breville Barista Express is $200 more expensive than the Bambino Plus. The Barista Express has a built-in grinder, adjustable shot volume settings and a visible pressure gauge to (supposedly) justify this additional cost.

If you are going to be brewing with pre-ground coffee then you should get the Breville Bambino Plus over the Barista Express. After all, why pay for a grinder that you’ll never use?

However, most of you probably want to brew espresso with freshly ground coffee so I’m going to spend the rest of this article assessing whether you’re better off with the Bambino Plus and a separate grinder or just the Barista Express.

Let’s get started.

Should I get the Breville Bambino Plus or Barista Express?

I’d recommend getting the Breville Bambino Plus regardless of whether you are going to be brewing with whole beans or pre-ground coffee.

The Barista Express’s built-in grinder is marginally inferior to a $200 standalone grinder (the typical price difference between the two machines).

More importantly, an espresso machine with a built-in grinder is harder to clean and maintain than one with a separate grinder — a problem I have unfortunately experienced firsthand with my Breville Barista Pro (which also has a built-in grinder).

Better Than the Barista Express
Breville Bambino Plus
$499.95
The Breville Bambino Plus allows you to brew delicious espresso and milk-based drinks with no prior experience. This makes it one of the best espresso machines under $500.
Get it on Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
04/03/2024 01:44 am GMT

I think that the Breville Barista Express is an overpriced machine.

If you are wedded to having an espresso machine with a built-in grinder then I’d recommend you go for the Breville Barista Pro instead of the Barista Express.

If you’d like to find out more about why I think this then please see my comparison of the Breville Barista Pro vs Express.

What are the Differences Between the Breville Barista Express and Bambino Plus?

The five differences between the Breville Barista Express and Breville Bambino Plus are (in order of importance):

  • Grinder: The Breville Barista Express has a built-in grinder, the Breville Bambino Plus does not.
  • Steam wand: The Breville Bambino Plus has a more automated steam wand than the Barista Express.
  • Heating system: The Breville Barista Express uses a thermocoil heating system, whereas the Breville Bambino Plus uses a thermojet heating system.
  • Programmability: The Breville Barista Express lets you adjust brew size and has a visible pressure gauge to help you “dial in” your shots. The Breville Bambino Plus has neither of these features.
  • Portafilter Baskets: The Breville Bambino Plus only comes with pressurized portafilter baskets, the Breville Barista Express comes with pressurized and non-pressurized portafilter baskets
  • Size: The Barista Express is 5” wider, 1” deeper, and 3.5” taller than the Bambino Plus.

I’m now going to explain these differences in more detail and give my verdict on how they make one machine better than the other.

Breville Barista Express’s Built-in Grinder vs Breville Bambino Plus’s Lack of Grinder

You’re better off with the Bambino Plus and a separate grinder than with the Barista Express’s built-in grinder.

While the Barista Express’s built-in grinder is not terrible, you can get a better quality grinder with the $200 you save by getting the Bambino Plus instead of the Barista Express.

It’s also far easier to clean out a clogged separate grinder than one that is attached to a coffee machine.

Standalone grinders are small enough that if they clog up you can tip them upside down to remove whole beans, and then brush out the burrs once they’re empty of whole beans.

The Breville Barista Express is too big to pick up and turn over, so if its grinder clogs up (and trust me, this will happen at some point), then you need to pick up any whole beans left in the bean hopper with your fingers before you clean it out.

This is not fun to clean out

It’s very hard to do this without making a mess and wasting coffee beans.

Winner: Breville Bambino Plus

Breville Barista Express’s Manual Steam Wand vs Breville Bambino Plus’s Automated Steam Wand

The Breville Bambino Plus’s automated steam wand has a greater range of functionalities than the Barista Express’s manual steam wand.

The Breville Barista Express has a standard, manual steam wand. Your milk’s temperature and texture is wholly dependent on how long you steam it and where you place your steam wand in the milk.

It’s a good steam wand (better than on most domestic espresso machines), you need to focus on what you’re doing to get consistency with your milk texture.

The Breville Bambino Plus’s steam wand can be used manually, and it performs identically to the Barista Express in this mode, however, it also has an “automatic mode” where it steams your milk to a predetermined temperature (either 50, 70, or 90 degrees Celsius) and a predetermined texture (on a scale of 1-3).

This means you can make a latte or a cappuccino (or any other milk-based espresso drink) without any effort. Just fill your pitcher with milk, put it on the drip tray, stick the wand in and turn it on.

You can see a video of barista and coffee YouTuber James Hoffmann praising the Bambino Plus’s steam wand below (watch from 16:35-17:35):

In short, the Bambino Plus’s steam wand can do everything the Barista Express’s steam wand can do and more.

Winner: Breville Bambino Plus

Breville Barista Express’s Thermocoil Heating System vs Breville Bambino Plus’s Thermojet Heating System

The Breville Bambino Plus’s thermojet heating system is better than the Breville Barista Express’s thermocoil heating system.

The Bambino Plus can go from off to ready to make an espresso in 3 seconds, compared to the Barista Express’s 40 seconds.

The Bambino Plus’s steam wand takes about 8 seconds to turn on, and the Barista Express’s steam wand takes about 30 seconds to turn on.

Both machines are fitted with a PID to control their brewing/steaming temperature. 

Their difference in the heating system therefore only affects their heat-up time rather than their brewing/steaming performance.

Winner: Breville Bambino Plus

Breville Barista Express’s Programmability and Pressure Gauge vs Bambino Plus’s Lack of Programmability

The Breville Barista Express’s shot volume control allows you to make lungo and ristretto. You cannot make these drinks with the Breville Bambino Plus.

The Breville Barista Express has a “program” mode, activated by pressing its “program” button. When in this mode you can adjust the amount of water the machine brews with by holding down the one or two-cup button when you pull your shot. 

This button

However long the one cup/two cup button is held for is the number of seconds that your machine will dispense water when pulling a shot from then on.

The Bambino Plus does not have a “program” mode and will therefore always brew with one ounce of water for a single shot and two ounces for a double shot.

Although espresso nerds wouldn’t dream of using a machine without this type of programmability, they also would want a better grinder than what you get with the Barista Express.

I know quite a few Barista Express users, the vast majority of whom have this as their first espresso machine, and most of them never touched the “program” button.

The Barista Express’s pressure gauge is also less useful than it might seem at first. 

The gauge has a very large “espresso range” and there is no clear consensus on what the ideal pressure within that range is.

It, therefore, doesn’t give you a very precise degree of feedback on how your shot is pulling.

You are better off judging how well your shot is pulling by timing it, rather than checking your pressure gauge (you want your shot to pull in 25-30 seconds). 

So while a pressure gauge is better than no pressure gauge, it’s not a feature that alone would make me want the Barista Express over the Bambino Plus.

Winner: Breville Barista Express

The Breville Barista Express Comes With Pressurized and Non-Pressurized Portafilter Baskets, The Bambino Plus Only Comes With Pressurized Portafilter Baskets

This means that you’ll have to buy 54mm non-pressurized portafilter baskets if you are going to brew with fresh coffee beans with the Breville Bambino Plus.

This costs around $25 and should be factored in along with a separate grinder when you are judging the value for money of getting the Breville Bambino Plus or the Breville Barista Express.

Winner: Breville Barista Express

Breville Bambino Plus is Smaller than the Breville Barista Express

Even though the Bambino Plus is a more compact machine than the Barista Express, this difference is negated if you also have a grinder on your counter.

If you want to brew with whole beans, then I wouldn’t view the Bambino Plus’s relative compactness as an advantage over the Barista Express.

I actually think the Bambino Plus’s compact design makes it less user-friendly than the Barista Express.

This is mainly because it has a tiny drip tray that needs to be emptied after every milk drink that you make (the steam wand will purge water into your drip tray after it steams your milk). 

This is an annoyance that the Barista Express does not have.

During my research, I saw a lot of people online criticizing the Bambino Plus because the machine was so light that it moved when you attached its portafilter to it. The Barista Express also has this problem (as does basically every domestic espresso machine).

Winner: Breville Barista Express

What do the Breville Bambino Plus and Barista Express Have in Common?

Here are the ways that the two machines are similar:

  • Espresso quality: Both machines are fitted with PIDs and over-pressure valves to control brewing pressure and temperature for optimal espresso extraction. This means that assuming they use the same grinder, they should produce the same espresso quality.
  • Steamed milk quality: Both coffee machines can produce the same quality of milk foam, however, it’s easier to get a good quality milk foam with the Bambino Plus than the Barista Express.
  • Build quality: All Breville coffee machines have quite a cheap, plasticky external build quality but a really good quality internal build quality. Breville’s customer support is really helpful if you have a problem with your unit, and this is obviously the same for both machines.

Is it Cheaper to Get the Breville Bambino Plus and a Grinder or the Breville Barista Express?

At the time of writing, it’s cheaper to get the Breville Bambino Plus and a separate grinder than the Breville Barista Express.

The Breville Bambino Plus is $200 cheaper than the Breville Barista Express.

You need a grinder and non-pressurized portafilter baskets to use whole-bean coffee with the Breville Bambino Plus.

Breville-compatible non-pressurized portafilter baskets cost $25, so that leaves us with $175 to get a grinder.

There actually aren’t that many great espresso grinders in this price range, however, Breville sells the Dose Control Pro for $160.

This is basically the same grinder that the Barista Express has, except it has more grind settings and gives you more control over grind time (the grinding mechanism itself is exactly the same).

While it probably won’t help you make better espresso with the Bambino Pro compared to the Barista Express, it’s a marginally cheaper setup, and unclogging the Dose Control Pro will be much easier than unclogging the Express’s built-in grinder.

I also like the fact that if you want to take your espresso brewing further, you can upgrade your grinder without having to get a whole new machine. 

You can make excellent espresso by pairing the Bambino Pro with a nonpressurized portafilter and a high-quality grinder – far better than what you can make with the Barista Express as its built-in grinder puts a ceiling on its espresso quality.

Breville Bambino Plus vs Bambino Express: Final Thoughts

I’d always recommend the Breville Bambino Plus over the Breville Barista Express.

The Breville Bambino Plus with the Breville Dose Control Grinder is a cheaper, superior espresso setup than the Breville Barista Express with its built-in grinder.

Having a separate grinder for your machine also makes cleaning and troubleshooting easier and gives you more flexibility if you want to upgrade your setup.

Better Than the Barista Express
Breville Bambino Plus
$499.95
The Breville Bambino Plus allows you to brew delicious espresso and milk-based drinks with no prior experience. This makes it one of the best espresso machines under $500.
Get it on Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
04/03/2024 01:44 am GMT

For more on the Bambino Plus, please see my comparison of the Breville Bambino vs Bambino Plus and my roundup of the best Breville espresso machines.

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